Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is mainly responsible for the influx of small boats crossings in the English Channel, a new study has found.
The decision to leave the EU without a returns agreement in place has led to the “skyrocketing” number of dangerous crossings, according to the Durham University report.
As part of the union, Britain could previously ask fellow nations to take people back if they had passed through safe countries en route to the UK under the Dublin Convention.
However, that agreement was waived under the Brexit deal.
The latest Government figures show 1,442 people have made the journey so far this year, as of Monday. This is compared to 184 at the same point in 2020, 285 people in 2021, and 1,341 people in 2022.
Some 45,756 people are thought to have made the crossing in 2022, the highest total ever.
There were no recorded small boat crossings until 2018.
“The government used to have a deal on returning migrants, but it ended with Brexit and no alternative was agreed,” said study author Professor Thom Brooks. “This made it far more difficult to return any new arrivals, and numbers have skyrocketed after this deal stopped.”
The academics claim that the Tory government was repeatedly warned about the need for a returns policy, with Prof Brooks saying he predicted as far back as 2016 that migration numbers would rise steeply without one.
Prof Brooks said that the best way to prevent more small boat crossings would be to establish a new, post-Brexit returns agreement with France and the wider EU.
“The prime minister must acknowledge the main factor for creating the small boats problem so he can fix it. Rishi Sunak’s difficulty is it would mean recognising key mistakes that his government made, and were warned about but ignored,” the professor said.
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